A friend of mine returned to work today after having been on maternity leave for a few months with her first daughter. She expressed a sentiment that reflected how I felt about returning to work. She mentioned how she was starting the first day of the rest of her life as a working mom, and her sentiments were really relatable to me.
They expressed the sort of bittersweet moment that seems to comprise a lot of motherhood. The happiness and pride that we experience when our little ones roll over the first time, or crawl across the room, while at the same time feeling a twinge of sadness for the passing of a period of calmness, of serenity in a not-yet-mobile tiny baby that will never again return. The fun and adventure of watching you eat new foods, while also feeling a loss for the waning time we spend together in the peaceful act of nursing. These moments of happy and sad, these ebbs and flows of your growing independence and in turn my pride and joy for your accomplishments, but also my longing for simpler, earlier days, are destined to repeat themselves over and over.
But as she sent a note today about joining the ranks of working mothers, I thought back over my experiences these last few months as a working mom and I tried to harness some words of wisdom or encouragement for her. I thought about my mother, and the memories I had of her while I was growing up. I remember her being home for me when I was really little, and I remember her going back to school and eventually to work, but still always being around for dinner and ice skating competitions and running me all over town for various activities. I remember feeling proud for the job that she did, proud that she was my mom. And I never felt like she was flustered, or overly burdened with working and raising a family and being a wife and taking care of a home. She seemed happy to go to work, and happy to be home. She seemed to have figured out how to balance it all.
I’m sure that it was hard for her to do it all. At the time I didn’t appreciate how difficult juggling all of those balls can be. But now that I’m a working mom, and as my friend joined me today on this adventure, I questioned today what advice I have for her. And I kept asking myself what type of woman do I want you to see me be? I want you to be proud of me, to feel that I am genuinely working very hard to make a real difference to better people’s lives. I want you to feel that I am passionate about what I do, that I have an amazing job that I’m thankful every day that I have, but that I worked very hard to get where I am. I want you to really believe that hard work can get you wherever you want to be, that women can have it all, that I love you more than anything in the world, but that I also love this job that challenges me, enables me to problem-solve and educate people and make a difference and travel the world. I want you to see that although I am busy with work, my work does not consume me or frazzle me. And when I’m home with you and your dad, you are my focus. And no matter where I am, at work or with you, you are my whole world.